Saturday, September 26, 2009

That Was The Year That Was




Sunday, September 27th is the one-year anniversary of this blog.  Over the past 12 months I’ve produced more than 90 essays, with links to hundreds of radio broadcasts, TV shows, and movies that are available for free viewing or downloading from the Internet.


The first show I wrote about was Your Hit Parade, in a piece called  'Twas Rock & Roll That Killed Your Hit Parade.  In short order, I was contacted by Andrew Fielding, whose mother had appeared on Your Hit Parade often during the early 1950’s.  


He sent me his book, which I reviewed here, and we’ve stayed in contact via email since then.  His blog, The Lucky Strike Papers, is featured in my sidebar.


Just two days later, we learned of the passing of Paul Newman, which prompted me to write a blog entitled Paul Newman's Early TV Appearances,  with links to his first TV appearance on  Tales of Tomorrow which aired on August 8th, 1952.  


Next came 4 episodes of Rocky King, Detective from the Dumont network, then an in depth look at the surprising radio and TV career of Jack Webb, in You Really Don't Know Jack.  


October brought us an homage to Dr. Frank Baxter, an icon to those of us who went to school during the 1960s and remember the Bell Laboratories science films of that age.  A Tribute to Mendel Berlinger (aka Milton Berle), and a look at some of our best scary movies in The Horror Of It All!, along with several other essays.


November started out with all things Horatio Hornblower in I Knew Him, Horatio, followed by the BBC Classic miniseries Quatermass And The Pit, and then a series of Christmas show entries, including Cinnamon Bear - A 71 Year-Old Christmas Tradition.


But it wasn’t all holiday fare, as evidenced by Memories Of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and my tribute to The Bickersons in Not Exactly Ozzie And Harriet.  I encouraged my readers to Spend `An Evening With Groucho Marx' closed out November with 4 takes on a famous short story, called Four Variations On A Theme.


December opened with a 2-part essay on Victor Borge The Great Dane Pt 1 and The Great Dane Pt II, followed by a half dozen Christmas stocking stuffer posts, with everything from Bob Hope to Dragnet Christmas specials.


2009 opened with John Newland Going `One Step Beyond', which was followed by The Colgate Comedy Hour With Abbott & Costello. and then The Two Richard Diamonds (radio and TV). Next came Things Go Better With Eddie Fisher and then a fond look back at Jackie Gleason in The Great One.


Before the month was out, I presented More Tales Of Tomorrow, featuring some very recognizable TV and movie stars long before they became household names.


In February we recalled the life of Ralph Edwards in This Was His Life, and laughed once more at CAR 54, Where are you?  in Gunter and Francis Together Again. Lee Liberace was featured in Mr. Showmanship, followed by 4 essays on Sherlock Holmes.


Holmes Sweet Holmes Pt. 1
Sherlock Holmes On The Big Screen
Three Decades of Holmes On The Radio
Sherlock Holmes On The Small Screen


March brought a look at old TV commercials, in And Now A Word From Our Sponsor, Martin Kane, Private Eye, and a look at Lucille Ball’s early career in Before We Loved Lucy.


I also presented the first of several collections of blooper reels from Warner Brothers in Warner Brothers Breakdowns of the 1930’s.  Followed by a fond look back at Sky King in  From Out Of The Clear Blue Of The Western Sky Comes . . ., and topped off with a contortionist act you have to see to believe in Solid Potato Salad.


April brought, among other things, the first realistic medical show for TV A Boone For TV Medical Shows, Borrah Minevitch And His Harmonica Rascals, and Joan Davis The OTHER Wacky Housewife Of The 1950’s.  Another red head, by the name of Skelton, closed out the month in Seeing Red.


May brought us Lloyd Bridges Adventures Above and Beneath The Sea, Swing music, old radio show openings in Themes Like Old Times and classic comic books of the 1950s in Warning: A Graphic Post.


In June we were able to Meet Boston Blackie, remember All About Eve Arden, and learn music appreciation from The Musical Marx Brothers. Mr & Mrs. North proved that Finding A New Murder Every Week was good for ratings, and I presented the star studded 1957 special Hardly An Edsel Of A Show.  Last, but hardly least, an homage to Judy in Shout Hallelujah.


July opened with What It Was, Was A Young Andy Griffith, followed by Matt Dodson . . . err, Make That Tom Corbett, Space Cadet!.  We said goodbye to Gale Storm (1922-2009), watched some more classic commercials in And Now, Another Word From Our Sponsor . . ., and watched Soundies . . . Music Videos Of The Past.


August started out with some Classic Film Noir, and then some rare Big Band Remotes.  We explored one of the earliest, and most outrageous sc-fi/singing cowboy serials ever made in The Phantom Empire Strikes Back, and then took to the scenic highways of the 1950s in The Roads To Romance travelogues.


Before the month was out, we’d remembered why There Is Nothing Wrong With Your Television Set . ., and took the pulse of mid-60s with Hollywood Palace 1965.


This month (September) we enjoyed some Bob Cummings Attractions, and spent some quality time with My Man (Arthur) Godfrey and A Little More Godfrey.


I skipped some, of course.  To give my new readers a reason to browse back through the archives. 

While I don’t know what I’ll write about next (I never do), I do know there remains much unexplored territory in the world of online radio, TV, and movies.   


Much of my time is devoted to my other blog – Avian Flu Diary – but I fully expect to produce 4 to 6 essays a month in the coming year.


My hope is you will enjoy them as much as I will.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Little More Godfrey



In a follow up to my last post, I’ve a bit more Arthur Godfrey for you to enjoy . . . but first this announcement.


I’m going to be away for a few days next week, as I’m taking part in the CIDRAP H1N1 Pandemic Conference in Minneapolis on Tuesday and Wednesday.  




My other blog, Avian Flu Diary, focuses on emerging infectious diseases, and in particular, pandemic influenza. 


Obviously, I’m operating way out of my league.


Nevertheless, unless they figure that out before Wednesday, I’ll be part of a panel discussion along with Bob Bazell of NBC news, Amy Burkholder of CBS news, Betsy McKay of the Wall Street Journal, and Joel Kramer of


Since I’ll be away, I won’t be updating this blog again until next weekend.   But to give you something to chew on, I’ve located some more Arthur Godfrey radio shows (including the firing of Julius LaRosa) for your listening pleasure.


These shows come from Tennessee Bill’s OTR Library, which looks to be a terrific resource for Old Time Radio.  I’ve just begun to explore its offerings.




See you when I return.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Man (Arthur) Godfrey




During the 1950s there was probably no Television (or radio, for that matter) personality more immediately recognizable to the American audience than Arthur Morton Leo Godfrey (August 31, 1903 – March 16, 1983). 


His red hair (ok, it was black & white TV, but they mentioned it a lot), and ukulele were trademarks, as was his folksy delivery and common man demeanor.   He was a TV host, a talent scout, a radio personality, and a pitchman for numerous advertisers.


If he liked you, and you had talent, he could make you a star.  But of course, if he didn’t like you . . . .

But before he became arguably the king of 1950’s television (he had 2 weekly shows, and a daily 90-minute morning show at one point), Godfrey got his start in radio in the 1930s.


While still working for a regional radio station in 1933, Godfrey was involved in an auto accident and spent months in the hospital. His only entertainment was the beside radio, and he listened for hours.  It was then he realized that the stiff, formal speech patterns of most on-air personalities didn’t `connect’ with the listener.

He vowed to develop a folksy style – like he was talking to just one person – if he ever returned to the airwaves.  Which he did on a local radio show in the Washington D.C. market.  

By 1942 he had managed to become the announcer for  Fred Allen's Texaco Star Theater show on CBS radio, but left after a dispute with the star after just 6 weeks.


Godfrey reached the nation’s attention while describing the funeral procession of President Roosevelt in 1945. His folksy, common man narrative was picked up by the networks, and broadcast around the country. 


Choking back tears, Godfrey intoned "God bless him, President Truman” when the newly inaugurated president passed by.


CBS was so impressed with him, they gave him a nationally syndicated morning show Arthur Godfrey Time on the radio.  Two years later (1947), Godfrey struck gold again with a novelty tune “The Too Fat Polka”.


After that, CBS gave him a primetime variety show, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts.  A variation of the popular Amateur Hour, Talent Scouts saw a number of famous entertainers break into show business.

Wally Cox and the Chordettes both appeared on the same show, and Godfrey signed the Chordettes to be part of his radio and (eventually) television family.


While Godfrey’s show highlighted early appearances by the likes of Roy Clark, Lenny Bruce, Don Adams, Tony Bennett, Patsy Cline, and Pat Boone he also rejected a very young Elvis Presley and Sonny Till & The Orioles.


CBS was in danger of becoming the All Godfrey All The Time Network by the mid 1950s, with the ubiquitous Godfrey showing up five mornings and a couple of nights each week on the schedule.


His abilities as a pitchman for products (Lipton Tea and Soup, Frigidaire, and Chesterfield Cigarettes among others) was legendary.  He would wander from the script, poke gentle fun at the sponsors (but never the product), much to the delight of audiences.

Sponsors, if they were unnerved by his antics, quickly learned that their sales went up when Godfrey pitched them.


Godfrey was an amateur radio operator (Ham), and an accomplished private pilot, and would often talk about his hobbies and interests on the air.


But there was a dark side to Godfrey as well, one that began to bubble to the surface publicly during the 1950s.  Some people place the blame on the pain he endured after his auto accident two decades earlier, and the subsequent operations he underwent.

Godfrey was eager to groom new talent, but was a tough taskmaster.  He insisted that his `little Godfreys’, members of his cast, take ongoing dancing and singing lessons, and maintained tight control over their careers.


One member of his cast was Julius LaRosa, who was a popular vocalist on the show.  He chafed at having to take the dance lessons, and missed one due to a family emergency.   Godfrey punished him by  barring him from the show for a day.


LaRosa hired an agent to renegotiate his contract, and was blindsided when – during a broadcast – Godfrey announced that LaRosa was leaving the show.


After LaRosa told the press he had no idea he was going to be fired, Godfrey called his own press conference, and said that LaRosa had lost his `humility’.  


The public slowly began to suspect that it was Godfrey, not LaRosa, who lacked humility.


The firings continued, with Godfrey’s bandleader, and the Chordettes next to go (replaced by the McGuire Sisters), and the controversies grew.  Comedians openly mocked Godfrey, and his image suffered (I’ve an example below).


Two movies were made about `Godfrey-like’ media personalities, and neither were flattering.  The Great Man (1956) starring Jose Ferrer, and Elia Kazan's classic A Face in the Crowd (1957) starring a very young Andy Griffith.

Although his star was tarnished by the controversies, Godfrey continued to appear regularly on TV until 1959, when his doctors discovered he had lung cancer.  Remarkably, Godfrey beat the odds, and lived another 24 years after surgical removal of one of his lungs. 


Flawed or not, Godfrey was genuinely one of the pioneers of early TV and radio, and we are lucky enough to have some of his later radio shows (recalling the 1950’s), and some kinescopes of his shows of the 1950s.  


All are available on The Internet Archive.


First, some reminiscing by Godfrey in 1972 about his broadcast career and broadcasting in general during the 1950’s.


Recalling 1956         6.80 MB

Recalling 1955         6.90 MB

Recalling 1954         6.86 MB

Recalling 1953         6.91 MB

Recalling 1952         7.11 MB

Recalling 1951         6.90 MB

Recalling 1950         6.87 MB

Recalling 1949         6.89 MB




Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (1956)
Episode of "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" from July 30, 1956.


"Arthur Godfrey and his friends" - 28/January/1953
Partial program of "Arthur Godfrey and his friends": Marion Marlowe, Julius LaRosa, The McGuire Sisters and Frank Parker from January 28th, 1953.



These next two videos are part of a documentary/commercial created for Eastern Airlines by Godfrey, extolling the virtues of modern air travel.   Interesting from a historical perspective, and for all aviation buffs as well.

Flying with Arthur Godfrey (Part I) - Fairbanks (Jerry) Productions
TV host Arthur Godfrey takes controls of a passenger plane to demonstrate airline operations.

Flying with Arthur Godfrey (Part II) - Fairbanks (Jerry) Productions
TV host Arthur Godfrey takes controls of a passenger plane to demonstrate airline operations.





And a parody (and probably not intended kindly) by Jerry Lester, host of The Cavalcade of Stars, of Arthur Godfrey.  


It is mercifully short.


"Cavalcade of Stars": Arthur Clodfrey
Clip from the 50's TV series "Cavalcade of Stars" featuring a parody of Arthur Godfrey called "Arthur Clodfrey Time". Features parodies of early commercials and plugs, and the unpredictable nature of live TV. Certainly historically important, But you really have to know about early commercials to find this funny, Otherwise you will be confused




Godfrey returned to his morning radio show in the 1960s, and would continue on with it for another decade, but his TV appearances dwindled. 


He had some guest shots in a handful of movies, co-hosted Candid Camera briefly with Allan Funt (another professional relationship that reportedly ended badly), and made commercials – but his heyday was through.


Godfrey died in 1983 of Emphysema, at the age of 80.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cummings Attractions




Television sitcoms have come a long way since the early days of television.   


Of course, that isn’t necessarily a complement.


Fifty years ago, one of the best sitcoms was The Bob Cummings show, aka Love That Bob (in syndication).   It began in 1955 on CBS, moved to NBC after half a season where it ran for two years, then returned to CBS for its final two year run.  


It was syndicated during daytimes in the 1960s as Love That Bob on ABC.


The plot was pretty simple.  Bob Cummings played Bob Collins, a Hollywood photographer, ladies man, and air force reservist.  He is constantly pursuing the the gorgeous models he photographs, but his plans more often than not fall apart.

This series, which co-starred Rosemary DeCamp – who is well remembered as playing Jimmy Cagney’s sister in Yankee Doodle Dandy – and also played the part of Peg Riley in the first incarnation of The Life of Riley on TV (with Jackie Gleason).


Ann B. Davis had third billing, but she became hugely popular as `Schultzy’, and had a good deal of screen time in the series. While she went on to play Alice in The Brady Bunch, to my generation she will always be Schultzy. She won two Emmy awards for the role.


The series also starred such up and coming stars as a young Dwayne Hickman (Before he would become Dobie GIllis) and Nancy Culp playing a man-crazy bird watcher before she became Miss Hathaway on The Beverly Hillbillies (Playing almost the same role).

The star was Charles Clarence Robert Orville `Bob’ Cummings (June 9, 1910 – December 2, 1990) – who had matinee idol looks, and a suave delivery – but never quite jelled as a major movie star.


Cummings began working on Broadway in the early 1930s, opposite Fanny Brice.  He’d spent time in England and had perfected an upperclass English accent, which helped his career.    He acted under the name Bruce Hutchens for awhile in the 1930s, but returned to his given name by the late 1930s.


His film career picked up in 1939, when he starred in Three Smart Girls with Deanna Durbin, and then followed that film with a series of fairly lightweight comedies. 

Cummings received good notices for his dramatic performances in Kings Row (1942) , Saboteur (1942), and Dial M for Murder (1954), but his film career languished.  


His films weren’t bad – just largely forgettable.


  • Princess O'Rourke (1943)
  • Flesh and Fantasy (1943)
  • You Came Along (1945)
  • The Bride Wore Boots (1946)
  • The Chase (1946)
  • Heaven Only Knows (1947)
  • The Lost Moment (1947)
  • Sleep, My Love (1948)
  • Let's Live a Little (1948)
  • The Accused (1949)
  • Reign of Terror (1949)
  • Tell It to the Judge (1949)
  • Free for All (1949)
  • Paid in Full (1950)
  • The Petty Girl (1950)
  • For Heaven's Sake (1950)
  • The Barefoot Mailman (1951)

    But it wasn’t until The Bob Cummings Show that he really gained stardom.  


    He followed up his success with 2 more series attempts (The New Bob Cummings Show, and My Living Doll).  Neither proved to be successful, and both only ran a short time.


    His big show was re-run for about a decade on daytime television, but black & white episodes fell out of fashion by the early 1970s, and since then they’ve seen only limited play.  The copyright on these shows was never renewed, and they have fallen into the public domain.

    While a slower pace than today’s snappy sitcoms, and less risqué (although not altogether innocent), these shows remain an enjoyable window into the humor and lifestyles of 1950s. 


    Here then are 20 episodes from The Internet Archive.


    Love That Bob : Bob Goes Bird Watching
    Bob Retrenches
    Bob Saves Harvey
    Bob's Forgotten Fiancee
    Bob In Orbit
    Bob Plays Margaret's Game
    Bob and Schultzy Reunite
    Bob and the Dumb Blonde
    Bob Gets Harvey A Raise
    Bob and the Ravishing Realtor
    Bob Becomes A Stage Uncle
    Bob DIgs Rock And Roll
    Bob Goes To The Moon
    Bob Judges A Beauty Contest
    Bob Butters Beck, Beck Butters Better
    Grandpa's Christmas Visit
    Grandpa's Old Buddy
    Collins The Crooner
    Grandpa Attends A Convention
    Grandpa Moves West